Considering that out-of-staters and non-New Englanders comprise about 54% of Yale Students (including 10% international students), the fact is that a lot of us fly to get to and from Yale. In 2000, 1409 freshman matriculated, and of them, roughly 760 were not from the New England or “Middle Atlantic” area (Regional Origins of YC Freshmen PDF).
Almost inevitably, this means that about this many students had to fly to get to Yale at the start of the term, and that most of them probably had to fly to get back home at the end of term. And let’s not forget the winter break, where the majority of these students do fly home.
Let’s do the math
1 flight from San Francisco to Hartford (with a layover in Chicago) generates about .58 metric tons of carbon dioxide. A flight from Florida to Hartford generates about .2 metric tons of CO2. You get the picture.
When you add up averaged domestic flight emissions data for one class of Yalies from the south, the middle states, the south-west, and the pacific coast, and multiply for Winter Break and end-of-term, Yalies must create at least 828 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year on flights alone- and that’s not counting international students, Thanksgiving break, Spring Break, a capella tours, study abroad, and summer study abroad!
If you include international students, the numbers more than double: if you calculate average international-regional flight emissions and multiply them by 3.75 (domestic students’ numbers were multiplied by 4: coming to Yale, going home for winter break, coming back from winter break, going home at end of term. I changed this to 3.75 for international students because I figure some of them will stay in the states for winter break, but may take a domestic flight), these flights would have to generate about 1,247 metric tons carbon dioxide.
This brings us to an average total of about 2,075 metric tons of carbon dioxide for one undergraduate class’s flights in one academic term. Multiply this average by the 4 undergraduate classes and you find that
Just by flying to and from school, Yale undergraduates create 8,300 metric tons of CO2 in a single term.
Though this number was obtained using averages and estimates, the numbers are still pretty astounding. To give some scope to this number, an average two-person household (including waste, electricity, cars, heating, and gas) emits 18.8 metric tons per year. This means that over the course of a term, a bare-bones CO2 emissions estimate reveals that
Yale’s undergraduate flights alone are equivalent to an entire year’s worth of carbon dioxide emissions from at least 441 American homes.
What’s the solution?
It’s not as if we can force our families to move to New England. When flying is a necessity, one of the best ways to repair the CO2 damage done is to pay an organization that specializes in offsetting, like the highly-acclaimed UK group Climate Care, to do it for you.
On their home page, they have a neat calculator (used for all the calculations above) to determine how much CO2 your flights have created, and how much money it would cost to offset the flights. To give you some ballpark estimates, offsetting a flight from JFK to London costs about $13.75. To offset a flight from San Francisco to New York costs about $10.25. From Dallas to Hartford, it costs $4.60.
I know what you’re thinking: Who are you going to get to buy these for you? Well, as someone who’s up to my ears in useless stuff, and can’t afford to bring back another suitcase full of unneeded winter gear from my naive California relatives this Christmas, I for one am going to ask for greener gifts this holiday season – one of which is going to be a handful of carbon offsets from Climate Care UK.